By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Last year’s Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year Harrison Burton will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday. He’ll be piloting the No. 96 DEX Imaging, Inc. Toyota Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing.
The 20-year-old broke the news to NASCAR Race Hub on FS1 Thursday, saying the deal had just came together.
Already he has visited the race shop and interacted with the No. 96 team, who are running a partial schedule this season. The game plan is slowly being built on what they hope is a successful outing.
“I’m incredibly grateful to DEX Imaging and Toyota for providing this opportunity with Gaunt Brothers Racing,” said Harrison in a press release.
“From the moment I started racing, the Cup Series was always the goal. In everything I’ve done, I’ve been working toward this moment,” Harrison added.
“I saw how hard my dad worked to get to Cup and how hard he worked to compete and win races. He instilled that same work ethic in me and I’m just really proud and honored to have the chance to do what he did and compete with the best of the best.”
With this announcement, he’ll become first Burton to make a Cup start since his cousin Jeb Burton at Richmond in Spring 2019.
Team President Marty Gaunt acknowledged Harrison’s loyalty and success with Toyota over the past several years. It played a tremendous role in Gaunt’s decision on giving Harrison the opportunity to run in Cup.
“We’re proud to represent such an innovative brand in DEX Imaging and equally proud to have Harrison make his first NASCAR Cup Series start with us,” said Gaunt.
“As a Toyota team, we’ve seen firsthand how well Harrison has developed. He’s been racing and winning in Toyotas for years, and yet he’s still only 20 years old. He has a very bright future ahead of him and we aim to make his Cup Series debut a successful one.”
In addition of making his Cup debut, next Saturday’s Xfinity race (also at Talladega) will be his 50th series start where he has four career wins. Following his Cup opportunity, he mentioned on Race Hub he’ll continue to focus on his NXS program with Joe Gibbs Racing.
After seven races, Harrison is currently third in points with a pair of third-place finishes at Daytona and Atlanta being his best result.
“I have to perform in Xfinity to get the opportunities like I have this coming weekend,” said Harrison. “It’s a crazy feeling to go back-and-froth between Xfinity and Cup. Trying to figure out what to prepare for and how to prepare. I’m just excited trying to navigate that and get a good finish.”
Harrison is the second driver this week that’ll make their top division debut. Two days prior, Jennifer Jo Cobb was tabbed to run Rick Ware Racing’s No. 15 Arrowhead Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
On a historic note, Harrison will become the first 2000s born driver to compete in Cup.